Let’s get down to business: Moving the social entrepreneurship conversation forward

Getting down to business
Getting down to business

Last weekend’s New York Times article about social entrepreneurship “A Social Solution without Going the Non Profit Route” gives two examples of businesses with social missions: the well known D.light and a newcomer MIA Consulting.  Both tackle different social challenges using business models to support their social mission (instead of the traditional nonprofit model). Both social entrepreneurs.

The rest of the article discusses the challenge of correctly classifying such types of business, the recent proliferation of interest in social entrepreneurship and why the for-profit model is limited.

Interesting article – timely, relevant, yet we’ve heard and read about this a lot about over the last few years.  I’d surmise that even those not involved in the space now understand the basics of social entrepreneurship. Let’s start getting into the details of how social entrepreneurs can scale and become successful.

As a new member of SiG (Social Innovation Generation) @ MaRS, I’ve met with a number of entrepreneurs who have great ideas but are struggling with the same questions:

  1. How do I scale my business?
  2. Who else in my space (A.K.A. Who are my competitors?)
  3. Where can I sell my product; and the number one question,
  4. Where can I raise more money?

Let’s explore the second question: “Who else is in my space?”  As a budding entrepreneur, you need to know the competitive landscape in order to understand how you will differentiate yourself in the marketplace.

How does one do that?  Many ways; Google is a great place to start.  Other helpful research sites can be found on university websites, through your public library (they’ll even help you do the research!). The list goes on.  The great thing about doing early research is that the more research you have, the more compelling business plan you can write and then the more money you can raise!  Talk to us, we can further help you dive into the world of research through our market intelligence team.

Recently I sat down two of the founding social entrepreneurs of the organization Better the World.   They have devised a new way of raising funds for non profits through online advertising.   They too are in the throngs of raising new capital but what they have done really well is write a thorough business plan and have a great story to tell.  Their term sheet is solid, their business team is diverse and knowledgeable and their proof of concept is well on its way.

What is the main lesson from this example? Start with the little stuff.  Put the pieces together at the beginning that tell a credible business story (plan) that solidifies your vision. Do your homework.  And soon their will be more articles that actually talk about the success of social entrepreneurs and their impact  instead of just the basics of social entrepreneurship.

Go Create!

If you have any questions, feel free to reach me, Jennifer White,  through my colleague Marisa Fortune at mfortune@marsdd.com. Better yet, post them here and I’ll answer you.